Working with a coach
A few years ago I bought my first road bike and I was hooked from the start! For me cycling is an excellent stress reliever and it allows me to really enjoy this lovely island. I’m sure I’ll never get enough of the hilly landscape with olive groves and vineyards, the spectacular sea views and rocky mountains that surround the golf area.
I used to just go out and ride my bike for as many kilometers as my work schedule would allow, so in a short time I rode thousands of kilometers in the area between Palermo and Trapani. While riding many kilometers initially made me a stronger cyclist, I noticed that after a while I didn’t see much improvement anymore. That’s when I started to think about actually training instead of just cycling.
A lot of coaches and cycling websites offer cycling plans to help you train, but I prefer being able to contact someone and to get feedback on the training data so I started looking for a coach. I already followed several coaches on Twitter and because I found the cycling tips on the blog of one of them, coach Rob, particularly helpful, I decided to contact him and ask him about the possibilities.
Rob replied very swiftly and we set up a Skype call for the following Sunday. Even though it was the first time we ever spoke to each other, it felt like catching up with an old friend. We talked about our love for cycling and he wanted to know what my goals were and what I expected from a coach. I told him I wasn’t going to participate in races but that I just wanted to be a faster cyclist and in particular a better climber. After he explained me how he works and what kind of coaching options he offered, I decide to go with the week-to-week option. I opened a Trainingpeaks account which Rob would use to schedule my workouts and after filling in some forms the training started!
How does it work?
Coach Rob makes a schedule for four weeks. After logging in, I can view these on the Trainingpeaks website. I also get a daily email from Trainingpeaks with the workouts for the next two days. Even though I can check out all planned workouts on the Trainingpeaks website I really love these emails: it’s like opening a present every day and seeing what your workout will be the next day J
After each ride/workout I connect my Garmin Edge to my computer and send the data to my Trainingpeaks account. Then if I want to leave a comment or ask a few questions I can do so in the “post activity comments”. Rob then leaves his comments and answers my questions. He also adjusts the workouts based on the training data and those of the regular tests I do on the Tacx trainer.
When I started working with Rob I had lots of questions, so we Skyped more frequently. Lately we schedule a Skype call every 3-4 weeks and in between we keep in touch via email or Twitter. The time difference between the US and Sicily hasn’t been a problem, we can always find a suitable time for the both of us.
Does working with a coach work?
Well, I can’t speak for everybody, but for me it sure does! After sticking to the training schedule and following Rob’s advice for a few months I can already see an improvement. I am clearly faster than I was last year in the summer. For example, there’s a nice little 30 km route in the area (Balestrate – Partinico – Trappeto – Balestrate) which I ride many times, so I can use the data from these rides to see whether I’m making any progress. I recently did three laps in a row and the average speed of these 90 km was 2 km/hr higher than my fastest time of last year for only one lap.
I’m also cycling more efficiently (higher speeds with less effort) and I’m noticing a considerable improvement in my climbing speed.
So I’m achieving what I wanted, but I also enjoy cycling even more than I did last year! Isn’t that the most rewarding of all?!